Yaoundé—Environment watchdog and lobby group, Greenpeace has called on the Cameroon government to suspend lease agreements with one of the country’s biggest rubber company; Sud-Cameroon Hévéa (Sudcam) until clear preconditions and modalities of the sublet are established.
In an article made public last Wednesday 24 August, the group said the rubber producing giant has been a threat to future communities and the Dja Faunal Reserve, created in 1950 and registered a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
The reserve constitutes habitat for fourteen species of primate including Western Lowland Gorillas and Chimpanzees. Nomadic Baka forest peoples have inhabited the area for hundreds of years, possibly longer.
Greenpeace in the report said a recent analysis of satellite images shows that Sudcam has clear-cut almost 6,000 hectares of forest since 2011 with 42% of the deforestation carried out over the past one and a half year.
“That’s over 5,000 ha more than the clearing at the SGSOC palm oil plantation in Cameroon’s South West Region, a project which has been the object of massive NGO and media scrutiny since 2010,” part of the report read.
Sudcam officials were not reachable for comments at the time of this report.
President of the Republic's family
Citing a report by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Greenpeace suggests that official tolerance for SudCam’s apparent violation of Cameroonian land law may be due to the fact that one of its shareholders is, an influential member of the Cameroonian political elite.
The CIFOR research which Greenpeace has seen says: “[the] allocation of a temporary concession to Sud-Cameroun Hevea SA without taking into account the criteria specified in land regulations seems to have been motivated by the personality behind the Cameroonian who holds 20% of the company’s share.”
It adds that, “according to a local representative of the Ministry of the Environment, the President of the Republic's family owns the company. However we have learned only that an influential member of the Cameroonian political elite, whose identity we do not know, apparently owns 20% of the company’s shares.”
Sudcam whose plantation is located only a dozen kilometers east of President Paul Biya’s native Mvomeka’a village was established in 2010 as a joint venture company between the Singapore-based GMG Global Ltd (GMG), a subsidiary of the Chinese state-owned company Sinochem (80% of the shares) and the Société de Productions de Palmeraies et d'Hévéa (SPPH) (20% of the shares), the Greenpeace report explained.
The environmental advocacy group said it has written to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee to express unease about the lack of attention paid to the threat created by the Sudcam plantation.
“The opacity and questionable legality of the Sudcam project – by far the Congo Basin’s most devastating new clearing of forest for agriculture – has been encouraged by donors’, media’s and NGOs’ near total indifference to it,” the lobby group suggested in the report.
The group expressed lamentation that the UNESCO World Heritage Committee was asked to vote on a draft decision to inscribe the Dja reserve on the List of World Heritage in Danger on 14 July 2016, “unfortunately, only Finland voted in favor while all other delegations opposed the measure,” Greenpeace said.
By Ndi Eugene Ndi